Category Archives: Inspiring Stories

My first steps as a Dementia Friends Champion

Hi, my name’s Marilyn, I did my Dementia Friends Champions training last November, and I’d like to share my experience so far, because to begin with it was rather nerve racking and maybe others have felt the same. I would like to re assure people that once you make that first step it all starts to fall into place.

I heard about Dementia Friends through my employers, the Guinness Partnership. (Guinness are promoting Dementia Friends and have a target of 100 staff and 100 customers, becoming Dementia Friends). I was immediately drawn to learn more and become a Champion – perhaps because my mother (who passed away in 2002) had dementia, so I knew what it was like to live with the disease.

Once I’d done the training I was really keen to get started, but realised that I’d never stood up in front of an audience and talked on a particular subject before. As a Scheme Manager in Sheltered Housing I’m used to talking to people and holding coffee mornings and meetings, but the idea of preparing (and remembering) enough content to last 45 minutes to an hour and then presenting it in a way that people would enjoy and learn from, suddenly became very daunting. So much paper! How would I remember to say that bit on that sheet, and that bit over the page, oh yes, and  the bit about such and such?!!

I spent time condensing the most important points into a format that flowed and was easy to follow, (without rifling through lots of sheets). I also typed it out in a large bold font, so it would be easier to see and I wouldn’t lose my place. I spent a lot of time as I wanted to be sure that nothing important was left out, but it was so worth it and my first session went so much better than I’d anticipated. I did it with a group of my own residents and was delighted that 11 of them attended.

Once I started speaking, it really did flow; I’d gone through it so many times, actually practising speaking it out loud, and as I said the words ‘I’m passionate about Dementia Friends’ I realised that I really meant it . When you’re speaking about something that you really mean, it’s so much easier. I actually really enjoyed the session, because my residents were genuinely interested and asked questions and talked about their own experiences, some of which were amusing so there was a lot of laughter. One attendee said her action would be to tell all her friends on Facebook, one resident said she’d talk to the organisers at the clubs she goes to and ask if they’d be interested in booking a DF information session, another said she wouldn’t be afraid now, to speak to people with dementia and wouldn’t avoid them, as she’d been doing. Afterwards I felt exhausted but also exhilarated, and ready to do the same thing again.

I’ve got three more sessions booked over the next three or four weeks, and I know that it will become easier with each one. I’ve made 21 Friends up to now and hope to have at least 50, when I’ve done my next three sessions, so have confidence and know that you’re doing a great job, it may be a bit scary at first, but once you get a great reaction from attendees at your first session, you’ll be inspired to keep going!

Marilyn Keegan

Dementia Friends Champion

Guest Blog – Creating a dementia friendly Chichester

Dementia Friends badges

Dementia Friends show off their badges

I am happy to say we have made a huge impact starting with our own staff, gaining more confidence & transferring the skills for public sessions. We have successfully completed 5 Dementia Friends information sessions in the last two months. To make it more fun, at the end of each session we encourage attendees to pen down thoughts they want to action & have a quick discussion on those. It has led to very interesting results from Volunteering interest with Alzheimer’s to fundraising and including further Dementia Friends Champions across our sister care homes.

Some of the discussion has also highlighted some of the preconceived notions about abilities & skills relating to people affected by Dementia. I think as a facilitator it has been fantastic to get these conversations or discussions going.

We are a team of 50 working in a care home setting & as part of Anchor Trust we are great with our personalized care & living well with dementia is our motto.  I find these Dementia Friend’s sessions closing the community gap, giving shape to one structure & meaning to straightforward dementia awareness sessions across the board.  Like one of our attendees who is a local councillor rightly said she found them ‘simple & people friendly’ & almost everyone loves the ‘who’s right’ activity & it really gets every one talking. We make sure we have it on all our sessions.

We still have a long way to go & lots of more sessions to hold with the same excitement & zeal. We hope to reach out to local shops, supermarkets, taxi companies & our local colleges. It feels great to be part of the revolution & making positive noise about dementia. It’s a stupendous effort as a community to be personally accountable & we are in awe of the courage shared by our groups with their stories & personal experiences.

Our latest victory has been to tie up with Napa challenge & we are holding our 6th dementia friend’s session at our home.  We have challenged ourselves to hold it for a unique group of attendees from varied backgrounds, varying from taxi companies to police constables & win the challenge for our home.

Our next Dementia Friends information session is running on 25 September in Chichester. The session starts at 11am, please come along and help to create a dementia friendly Chichester. 

Augusta Court Dementia Friends Champions – Simanti Nandi, Sue Townend , Sharon Grobelaar & Deirdre Johnson.

Guest Blog: My Dementia Awareness Week by Adam Hayward


Adam Hayward Image

“Can you write a blog for us Adam?” they said.  “About how Dementia Awareness week went and how I ran my Dementia Friends Sessions?”, “Yeah, no problem!” was my immediate response on the telephone.  Then I turned to my wife, George, “So, what’s a ‘blog’?”

I have been a nurse for 8 years now, mainly looking after older people in hospital settings.  Somewhere between Christmas and New Year I decide that I was going to say “yes” to as many opportunities that came my way and see where life took me.  Not so much a New Years resolution, more a personal experiment in positive thinking.

One such opportunity arose during a meeting in Nottingham with the Dementia Action Alliance.  It was mid April and Dementia Awareness Week was rapidly approaching.  I realised the potential that the Dementia Friends programme has for raising awareness and making dementia friendly communities a reality.  My grand idea was to deliver short sessions during work breaks, with a light, interesting but enjoyable approach to as many people as I could.

First I had to become a Dementia Friends Champion, something I achieved one showery Friday in Milton Keynes Library.  It was a great day that filled me with ideas about what to do next.  I decided that the best way to sign up as many people as possible to the Dementia Friends programme would be to book a room within my hospitals education centre and advertise the sessions as soon as possible.  I booked two rooms on each day for the whole week (ten sessions in total) and advertised the sessions via the Dementia Friends website and on my works bulletin board.  Not really expecting much response, I got on with ‘business as usual’ and half forgot about it.

The week before Dementia Awareness week, I practiced my Dementia Friends session on George and my sister, Ann.  We all stood around a laptop in our kitchen, stirred dinner, drank a beer, drew some pictures of a penny and talked about dementia.  After 30 minutes, dinner was ready, and I had signed up my first two Dementia Friends!


I’ve never really been a fan of Monday, even less so lately.  Our two boys, Thomas (5) and Nathan (2), insist on waking at 5:30 for their daily monster hunt around our bedroom before charging downstairs to continue their 120 decibel demolition derby.  At least I have no need for an alarm clock anymore!  After the breakfast club and nursery drop off, it was a cup of tea on the run before meetings and a look at my overfull voicemail and email inboxes. By far, the highlight of my working day was the Dementia Friends sessions!  Informal and chatty, both sessions over-ran the allotted 35 minutes, but it was great to see people discussing dementia and what it means to them.  Mainly attended by staff from the hospital, it was also nice to see a group of volunteers.  I really enjoyed dishing out the badges, though working during my breaks left no room for lunch!  This was rectified with a sausage and mash mountain for tea. 


The breakfast club and nursery run again, then a full days work. I’d decided to include a short video in the sessions.  I found myself needing something to break up the session a little, especially if the group was quiet.  I used a video I found on the Alzheimer’s Society YouTube account (the one with Fiona Philips) and it worked well (it also gave me a couple of minutes to eat some lunch).  The sessions were better attended than I anticipated, I even had to find a couple of extra chairs!  A small group of local solicitors came to the session in the afternoon.


By far the busiest day of the week.  The sessions were great and I felt much more confident in my delivery.  A few more solicitors attended, though I’m not sure what they made of it all (they were a bit quiet).  I introduced the ‘who is right’ game into the sessions to get people moving, most people are keen, though a few didn’t like the idea of leaving their seats and walking about.


After two well attended sessions I signed up my boys to be dementia friends.  Their pledge is to visit their Great Grandmother more often as her dementia disappears when sings and plays with them at her care home.  Thursday was finished off with an evening sat in front of the computer, putting the finishing touches to an assignment for my degree module.  I was glad to see my bed that night!


The morning session was well attended.  A group of physiotherapists came, though they were a little shy.  The afternoon session had only a few people turn up.  It was by far the longest session, running over by nearly 45 minutes.  The discussions were interesting, emotional and funny.  I was proud to be signing up such committed, selfless people to be Dementia Friends.  If these people are the foundation of our dementia friendly communities, we are on our way to making real change for people living with dementia!

In a nutshell, that was my dementia awareness week.  I’m planning to deliver more sessions in the near future, though I’ll space them out a little more.  I have the local Women’s Institute booked in for October, and I am doing a session at our annual family barbeque in August (let’s hope the sun shines!).  I am also finalising a British Sign Language interpreted Dementia Friends session to deliver to the deaf community in the midlands in the next few weeks.